A second ban against homeless people camping overnight in a Langley City park won’t make the problem go away, according to the lone councillor who opposed the bylaw against overnight stays in Rotary Centennial Park.
Rosemary Wallace lives not far from the park in an area where homeless people are a familiar sight.
“In my heart, I cannot support this bylaw,” Wallace told her council colleagues when the proposed restrictions came back for final approval at their June 24 meeting.
People living near the park told the Langley Advance Times there was a long list of homeless-related problems, including discovery of a hypodermic syringe in the children’s play park, shutdown of the public bathroom because homeless people were sleeping in it, and their garbage getting searched with waste strewn all over.
Since the ban took effect, there have been complaints that homeless people displaced by the ban have begun camping out on sidewalks and alleys.
“It’s more common,” said Emil Alidina, property manager of a commercial building in the downtown core.
When someone abandoned a couch and recliner in the alley behind the building a few weeks ago, homeless people began using them to sleep, Alidina confirmed.
Alidina said he tries to avoid confrontations with homeless people, out of concern about possible reprisals,.
Some of his tenants have been verbally threatened when they ordered homeless people to leave the area, but nothing has ever happened, to his knowledge.
“I don’t make too big a deal out of it, as long as they don’t do drugs,” Alidina said.
He plans to take steps to have the couch and chair removed.
Francis Cheung, Langley City chief administrative officer, said reports from bylaw enforcement officers don’t show an increase in incidents of homeless people camping, but noted they are a transient population that often shifts locations.
“They move around,” Cheung said.
Wallace would not speculate about displaced homeless people moving to other areas of Langley City, but observed that when people are banned from one place, they will go to another.
“That’s just a fact,” Wallace said.
Wallace stressed that she meant “no disrespect” to the council when she voted against the ban, and believes her colleagues are doing the best they can.
But she would prefer not to have more bans.
“I hope we don’t have to go down that route [again].”
“It doesn’t address the issue,” Wallace added. “People don’t have a place to stay.”
Councillor Rudy Storteboom, who spoke up for the resolution at the meeting that approved it, said whether there is another ban depends on the homeless and if they cause trouble in another public park.
“Those taxpayers deserve to be respected,” Storteboom remarked .
After the meeting, Storteboom called the current situation “frustrating” and “unacceptable” because the municipality has limited ability to address the issues, compared to the provincial and federal levels of government.
“We truly are in a housing crisis,” Storteboom observed.
“There’s precious little being done.”
Wallace believes a lot of municipalities are being “overwhelmed” by the homeless crisis.
“There’s a lot of broken people out there,” Wallace commented.
“We’re in a crisis of heath and wellness.”
A report to council by City community safety manager Dave Selvage said in 2018, the City spent $85,000 on homeless-related costs.
In the first three months of 2019, it spent nearly $14,000.
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